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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Proverbs 3

 

 

Verses 1-4

Proverbs 3:1-4. My son, forget not my law — My doctrine or counsel; but let thy heart keep, &c. — By diligent meditation and hearty affection. For length of days, &c. — God will add these blessings which he hath promised to the obedient, Deuteronomy 8:18; Deuteronomy 30:20; 1 Timothy 4:8. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee — That mercy and truth, which are man’s duty. Mercy denotes all benignity, charity, and readiness to do good to others; truth, or faithfulness, respects all those duties which we owe to God or man, on the principles of justice, and to which we are laid under special obligations by the rules of it. Bind them about thy neck — Like a chain, wherewith persons were wont to adorn their necks. Write them upon the table, &c. — In thy mind and heart, in which all God’s commands are to be received and engraven. So shalt thou find favour — That is, obtain acceptance, and good understanding — Whereby to know thy duty, and to discern between good and evil; in the sight of God and man — Grace or favour with God, and that understanding which is good in his sight, that is, which is really and truly good, and which will be acknowledged as such by all truly wise and good men.


Verse 5-6

Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all thy heart — Wholly and securely rely upon God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, and upon his providence and promises, for direction and help in all thine affairs and dangers. Lean not to thine own understanding — Think not to accomplish thy designs by the strength of thine own understanding, without God’s blessing. Under this one kind of carnal confidence he understands all other kinds, such as confidence in bodily strength, wealth, or friends. In all thy ways — Designs and undertakings, both respecting the things of this life and those of the life to come; acknowledge him — Hebrew, דעהו, know him, namely, practically; or own him, his wisdom, by following his counsels; his power and goodness, by expecting success from him; his sovereignty, by managing all thy affairs in such a manner as to please and glorify him; and he shall direct thy steps — So that thy ways shall be safe and good, and at last have a happy issue.


Verse 7-8

Proverbs 3:7-8. Be not wise in thine own eyes — Be not puffed up with a vain conceit of thine own wisdom, as if that were sufficient for the conduct of all thine affairs, without direction and assistance from God, or without the advice of others. Fear the Lord, &c. — This he adds, because reverence for, and a dread of, the Divine Majesty, will make a man, when he compares himself with God, little and vile in his own eyes. Reverence God’s wisdom, and despise thine own. It shall be health to thy navel — To thy body, which is signified by one important part of it; and marrow to thy bones — Which is the nourishment and strength of the bones, and a great preserver and prolonger of life, as the decay of it is a chief cause of the weakness, dryness, and decay of the body. The sense of the verse is, This fear of God, or true religion, is not only necessary to the salvation of the soul, but is also calculated to promote the health of the body. For, as it prevents those diseases which are often occasioned by sinful lusts and passion, so it teaches that prudence, temperance, and sobriety, that calmness and composure of mind, that good government of the appetites and passions, which must, in the nature of things, tend to produce a good habit of body; and at the same time it gives us an interest in God’s promises, and places us under the care of his special providence.


Verse 9-10

Proverbs 3:9-10. Honour the Lord with thy substance — Lay out thy estate, not to please thyself, but to glorify God; and with the first-fruits of all thy increase — Or, with the chief, or best; which answers to the first-fruits under the law. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty — This is not the way to diminish thy estate, as covetous and profane persons allege, but rather to increase it.


Verse 11-12

Proverbs 3:11-12. My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord — Either by making light of it, or not being duly affected with it, or by accounting it an unnecessary thing; but rather esteem it a privilege and favour from God. Neither be weary of his correction — Neither think it tedious or hard, but endure it with patience and cheerfulness. For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth — Afflictions are not calamities, but benefits and comforts, because they are testimonies of God’s love, which is infinitely more desirable than any evil can be terrible. They show God’s design, desire, and care to purge us from our sins, and make us fit for his presence and kingdom. These two verses seem to be here inserted in the midst of his commendations of wisdom, to remove an objection against the excellence and happiness of wise or pious men, taken from those many afflictions to which such persons are frequently exposed, the reason of which he here gives.


Verses 13-15

Proverbs 3:13-15. Happy is the man — Notwithstanding all his afflictions; that findeth wisdom — Which supposes his diligent searching for it, expressed Proverbs 2:4. And the man that getteth — Hebrew, יפיק, that draweth out, understanding — Which expression implies two things: 1st, That man hath it not naturally in himself, but must have it from another, even from God and his word; 2d, That men should labour for it as those labour that dig and draw forth metals out of the earth. For the merchandise of it, &c. — It is more necessary and advantageous, because it is so, not only for this short life, but also for the future and everlasting life, in which gold and silver bear no price. All the things thou canst desire are not to be compared to her — For true worth and usefulness.


Verses 16-18

Proverbs 3:16-18. Length of days is in her right hand — Wisdom is here represented as a great and generous princess, distributing gifts to her subjects. She holds forth in her right hand the great blessing of health and length of days unto all those who will walk in the way to which she points; and it was but just to place this in her right hand, that is, to give it the precedence, because it was the chief promise of the law, and, indeed, unless when affliction is necessary for our chastisement, trial, or purification, the most desirable of all earthly blessings. After this follow wealth and reputation, which he places in her left hand, as inferior blessings, but which proceed also from her gift. Spiritually considered, these blessings refer to eternity, and the glories of heaven. Her ways are ways of pleasantness — Are exceeding delightful, namely, to those who know them and walk in them; whose judgment is certainly to be preferred before the contrary opinion of ungodly men, who are grossly ignorant of them, and professed enemies to them. Observe, reader, the enjoyments and entertainments of sense are not to be compared to the pleasures which gracious souls have in communion with God and doing good. And all her paths are peace — Produce a blessed tranquillity in a man’s mind and conscience, with confidence and cheerfulness in all conditions, and the joy which arises from a full persuasion that all things shall work for good here, and from a lively hope of eternal rest with God hereafter. There is not only peace in the end, but peace in the way; and not only in the way of religion in general, but in all the particular paths of that way; in all the several acts, instances, and duties of it: one does not imbitter what another sweetens, as it is with the allays of this world; but they are all peace; not only sweet, but safe, and full of quietness, assurance, and consolation, Isaiah 32:17. She is a tree of life — She is a certain pledge and means of everlasting life and happiness; to them that lay hold upon her — That eagerly pursue after her, and, when they overtake her, gladly apprehend and embrace her, as the Hebrew word here used signifies. He alludes to the tree of life in paradise, mentioned Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22, all right to eat of which was lost by the fall, and he here intimates that the wisdom of which he speaks is the only thing that can restore the life to us then lost. Happy is every one that retaineth her — That holds her fast, and is constantly resolved not to forsake her.


Verse 19-20

Proverbs 3:19-20. The Lord by wisdom, &c. — From human wisdom, or wisdom attainable by man, of which Solomon had hitherto treated, he now digresses to divine; thereby insinuating that it ought not to seem strange that he had said so much in praise of wisdom, and had so vehemently exhorted men to seek it, since all the works of God are effected by it; and that his readers might understand that he did not call them to the imitation of men, subject to errors and vices like themselves, but to the imitation of the divine wisdom. Although Christ be the wisdom of God, and the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24; and although all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made, yet it does not appear that Solomon speaks of him here, but rather of that divine perfection of wisdom which is the fountain of wisdom in man. Observe, reader, the effects which we call natural, are the productions of the Creator’s sovereign wisdom, who formed at the beginning, and who hath preserved ever since, the universe of things, with that connected chain of causes and effects with which we are surrounded. By his knowledge the depths are broken up — The great abyss of waters mixed with, and contained in, the bowels of the earth, breaks forth into fountains and rivers for the use of men and beasts: which is justly remembered here as an illustrious effect of divine wisdom, by which the earth was made habitable and the waters serviceable. And the clouds drop down dew — Under which rain is comprehended, as being of the same nature and use.


Verse 21-22

Proverbs 3:21-22. My son, let them not depart, &c. — Let me prevail with thee to keep these good instructions before the eyes of thy mind continually. Constantly and seriously meditate upon them, and thereby thou wilt attain and retain sound wisdom and discretion. So shall they be life unto thy soul — To thee, or thy person. They shall prolong thy life, and make it life indeed, namely, wise, holy, and happy: whereas a foolish, sinful, and miserable life is reputed a kind of death, and is often so called. Thus Moses says to Israel, He (namely, God) is thy life, and the length of thy days, Deuteronomy 30:20. Or Solomon here means, They shall be life to thy soul, properly so called. They shall quicken, delight, and save thy soul. And grace to thy neck — They shall be like a beautiful chain or ornament about thy neck, as above, Proverbs 3:3, and Proverbs 1:9.


Verse 23

Proverbs 3:23. Then shalt thou walk in thy way — Manage all thy employments and concerns safely, securely, or confidently, without danger or fear, casting thy care on God, in the discharge of thy duty. And thy foot shall not stumble — At those stumbling-blocks, trials, and temptations, at which heedless sinners commonly stumble, and by which they fall. Thy natural life, and all that belongs to it, shall be under the protection of God’s providence; thy spiritual life, and all its interests, under the protection of his grace; so that thou shalt be kept from falling into sin or trouble. Wisdom shall direct thee into and keep thee in the right way, as far as may be from temptation, and will enable thee to walk in it with holy security, and thou shalt find the way of duty to be the way of safety.


Verses 24-26

Proverbs 3:24-26. When thou liest down thou shalt not be afraid — Of fire, or thieves, or any of the terrors of the darkness, knowing that when thou and all thy friends are asleep, yet He that keepeth Israel, and every true-born Israelite, neither slumbers nor sleeps, and that to him thou hast committed thyself, and taken shelter under the shadow of his wings. Yea, thou shalt lie down — And shalt not need to sit up to keep guard; and, being laid down, thou shalt sleep, and not have thine eyes held waking by care or fear; and thy sleep shall be sweet — Refreshing to thee, not being disturbed by any alarms from without, or apprehensions from within. The way to have a good night is to sleep with a good conscience; and the sleep, as of the labouring man, so of the wise and godly man, is sweet. Be not afraid — That is, thou shalt not be afraid. For that it is a promise seems most probable from the context; only, for greater emphasis, it is delivered in the form of a precept; as if he had said, I require thee not to be afraid; it is both thy duty and privilege; of sudden fear — For sudden and unexpected evils are most frightful and grievous; and fear is here put for the evils feared. Neither of the desolation of the wicked — Which befalls them, when the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; and thou mayest be ready to fear, lest thou shouldst be involved in the common calamity; but fear not, for God will then hide thee in his chambers, Isaiah 26:20-21. For the Lord shall be thy confidence — A sufficient and sure ground of confidence; and shall keep thy foot from being taken — In the snares either of sin or of mischief.


Verse 27-28

Proverbs 3:27-28. Withhold not good — Do not deny it, but readily and cheerfully impart it; from them to whom it is due — Hebrew, מבעליו, literally, from the lords, or owners of it: which some refer to the restitution of goods gained unjustly; but the connection requires that we understand the clause in a more extensive sense. The good here spoken of must be considered as being applicable to any thing that is good, either counsel, comfort, reproof, or the good things of the present life. And by the lords, or owners of it, we must understand those who have any kind of right to it, whether by the law of justice and equity, or by the great and sovereign law of love, which God hath written on the hearts of men by nature, and hath frequently and solemnly enjoined in his word. So that this place not only commands the payment of just debts, and the restitution of things taken from others by fraud or violence, or of things committed to our trust; but it obliges every man, according to his ability and opportunity, to pity and relieve such as are in real want or misery, and to do all the good in his power, temporal or spiritual, to his fellow-creatures. Say not, &c. — The preceding verse forbade the denial, and this forbids the delay of this duty; unto thy neighbour — Unto any man, as the word neighbour is commonly used in Scripture; Go, and come again to-morrow, and I will give — Namely, what is thy due, in the manner before expressed, or what thou needest; for the word נתן, here used, is generally meant of free or charitable gifts, and not of debts due in justice or equity.


Verse 29

Proverbs 3:29. Devise not evil, &c. — Any thing injurious or hurtful; against thy neighbour — Against any child of man. Having commanded the doing of good, (Proverbs 3:27-28,) he here forbids the doing or designing any evil. Seeing he dwelleth securely by thee — Relying upon thy integrity: do not, therefore, deceive his trust, and cause him to repent of the confidence which he places in thee, which would be an iniquity hateful even to heathen.


Verses 30-32

Proverbs 3:30-32. Strive not — Either by words before the magistrate, or otherwise by thine actions; with a man without cause — Without just and necessary cause; if he have done thee no harm — Whereby it is clearly implied, that, in case of injury, a man may, by all lawful means, defend himself. Envy thou not the oppressor — For his impunity and success in his wicked designs, and the wealth which he gains by unrighteous practices; and choose none of his ways — For what men envy in others they seek to obtain for themselves. For the froward — Or, perverse, who walks in crooked and sinful paths, as the oppressor last mentioned, opposed to the upright man, who is called right, or straight, Proverbs 29:27; is an abomination to the Lord — And therefore, sooner or later, must be miserable. But his secret is with the righteous — They are his friends and favourites, to whom he familiarly imparts, as men use to do to their friends, his mind and counsels, or his secret favours and comforts, to which other men are strangers.


Verses 33-35

Proverbs 3:33-35. The curse of the Lord is in the house, &c. — Not only upon his own person, but upon his posterity, and upon all his domestic concerns. But he blesseth the habitation — Hebrew, נוה, the cottage, or sheepcot, that is, the dwelling, however mean; of the just — The blessing of God is upon him, his house and family, and all his concerns. Surely he scorneth the scorners — He will expose to scorn and contempt all proud and insolent sinners, who make a mock at sin, (Proverbs 14:9,) and at God and religion, and who despise all counsels and means of amendment: for those that exalt themselves shall certainly be abased. But he giveth grace unto the lowly — Namely, favour, both with himself and with men, as this phrase is often used. The LXX. render this verse, The Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the lowly; and St. Peter and St. James have quoted it according to them, 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6. The wise shall inherit glory — Shall enjoy it, not only for a season, as wicked men often do, but as an inheritance, constantly and for ever; but shame shall be the promotion of fools — Instead of that glory which they greedily seek, they shall meet with nothing but ignominy. The reading in the margin, Shame exalteth the fools, or, as some render the clause, The elevation of fools shall turn to their confusion, seems more agreeable to the Hebrew: that is, the more they have been elevated, “the more their folly shall be known, and their fall become more fatal.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 3:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-3.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 24th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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